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FA Cup Final - Crystal Palace vs Manchester United: Team News, Preview and Predictions

  • All you need to know about the 2015/16 FA Cup final
Shuvam Sinha
ANALYST
Preview
Modified 21 May 2016, 14:11 IST
The FA Cup trophy

One of the most awaited days in the English football calendar beckons. Alan Pardew and Louis van Gaal will proudly lead their respective teams out on to the pitch of the iconic Wembley Stadium this Saturday to contest the Grand Finale of the oldest domestic cup competition in sports’ history.

Yes, this is the FA Cup final! The two sets of fans on either side of the dugouts will be seeking to inspire their team to the coveted prize – the FA Cup trophy. But which set will be celebrating after 90 or 120 minutes?

Will we be witnessing the agony of a penalty shootout? Will Louis van Gaal keep hold of his job if he manages to end the season with a winner’s medal around his neck? The questions are piling up as we expect a thrilling encounter on Saturday.

Team News

Crystal Palace will be without Joe Ledley due to a broken leg that may well force him to miss out on the chance to represent Wales at the Euros. Ex-United winger Wilfried Zaha is fit after missing the last three matches through a hamstring injury.

Forward Bakary Sako is also fit and could feature on the bench. Defender Scott Dann should start after sitting on the bench during the Eagles’ 4-1 thrashing by Southampton on Sunday, while midfielder Yohan Cabaye could return after recovering from a knock.

Manchester United have no fresh injury concerns for this crunch fixture, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw the only absentees from the squad. Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo have recovered from injuries and are in the race to make Louis van Gaal’s 18-man squad.

Marouane Fellaini returns after a 3-match suspension and is in contention to start after impressing against Everton in the semi-final. Memphis Depay and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, however, have been dropped from the squad and have not travelled to London.

Form

Crystal Palace will be thankful that their misery in the Premier League this calendar year has come to an end. After a promising first half of the season, when many tipped them to be challenging for the European spots, their form dipped drastically in the second half – winning just twice and collecting a meagre 11 points from 19 games.

In fact, they were not mathematically safe until they beat Stoke City 2-1 in their penultimate league game. A 4-1 thumping at the hands of Southampton summed up their league campaign – lack of goals and rudimentary mistakes at the back.

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In contrast, their cup run has been as impressive as their league run has been shambolic, getting the better of four Premier League sides to make it to the summit clash. They have always managed to click as a unit when it came to the cup, and Alan Pardew will be vying for his side to deliver the goods against the second most successful team in the Cup’s history.

With their opponents having nothing but Cup glory to play for (United have already secured their European status via. their league position), Palace have the added incentive of making it to the Europa League if they manage to win this game. 

Can the creativity of Yohan Cabaye, the experience of Emmanuel Adebayor or the pace of Yannick Bolasie pop up on the big day to take the Eagles to their first ever FA Cup trophy?

Last 5 games (All Competitions) : L-W-L-W-L (Most Recent – Southampton 4-1 Crystal Palace)

Manchester United endured a bittersweet moment during their victory over Bournemouth at Old Trafford in their final Premier League game, which kicked off with the Red Devils realising that they were effectively out of the race for the last available Champions League spot.

This will be the second season where they have failed to make it to Europe’s premier club competition. However, Wayne Rooney’s excellence in midfield and Marcus Rashford’s swift rise to one of the Premier League’s most prominent strikers were the positives that can be taken into the next season. 

With nothing but silverware to play for, can Louis van Gaal’s men get the job done to lift their first major trophy in three years?

Last 5 games (All Competitions) : W-L-W-D-W (Most Recent – Manchester United 3-1 AFC Bournemouth)

Predicted Starting XI

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1) : Hennessey – Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare – Jedinak, McArthur – Zaha, Puncheon, Bolasie– Wickham

Manchester United (4-1-4-1): de Gea – Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Rojo – Carrick – Lingard, Fellaini, Rooney, Martial – Rashford

Key Stats

1. Manchester United have won the FA Cup 11 times, last winning it in 2003-04. Crystal Palace, however, are seeking their first taste of FA Cup glory.

2. These two sides have met in an FA Cup final before – back in 1990. Manchester United won the replay 1-0 after the original tie ended in a 3-3 draw. Lee Martin scored the decisive goal in the replay. Alan Pardew – now the manager of Crystal Palace – was part of their playing squad which lost out in the final.

3. Manchester United have won five out of their last six meetings against the Eagles in all competitions, drawing the other. Palace have failed to score in all but one of these games.

Key Battles

Scott Dann vs Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford has been the star of the show for United in the last three months since making his debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League. His ability to saunter past opponents in one-on-one duels with his pace has caused headaches for most defences.

The challenge to neutralise his threat in the penalty area awaits Scott Dann, who has been Palace’s standout centre-half for a majority of the season. Can he use his experience and strength to keep the 18-year old prodigy at bay?

Joel Ward vs Anthony Martial

He has made right-backs look absent from the pitch in the FA Cup this season. Just ask Cyrus Christie or Mo Besic. Anthony Martial – like Marcus Rashford – already looks an invaluable part of Manchester United’s future as they go through this period of rebuilding.

The ease with which he skips past opposition fullbacks and approaches the byeline to create a goal-scoring opportunity for his side is jaw-dropping. Can Joel Ward do anything to read his trickery on the ball?

Marouane Fellaini during Palace set-pieces

United’s defending at set-pieces has been vulnerable in the recent past, and the return of the aerially strong Marouane Fellaini should solve a major part of that problem.

Predictions

Manchester United may be on a better run of form, but Palace have turned up in cup ties and have made it to the final despite going through a rough patch in the league. They are certain to give United a few scares on the wings, where they have the pace and energy of Yannick Bolasie to utilise.

It promises to be a very close encounter which will go the full distance of 120 minutes. United’s quality in the final third, however, is likely to show in the latter stages of the game and reflect on the final result – a narrow victory for Louis van Gaal’s men to lift their first FA Cup in 12 seasons.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United (AET)

Published 21 May 2016, 13:59 IST
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